EU official touts blockchain for digital refugee identities

31/08/17

A task force within the European Parliament wants to explore how blockchain technology could give digital identities to refugees, public documents suggest.

Amendments for the European Union's 2018 budget, published on August 29, include one related to a task force first approved last year by EU lawmakers. The document also outlines that, of the more than €850,000 allocated for the project in the 2017 budget, €425,000 has been spent thus far.

Remarks included in that amendment – which appear to be attributed to Jakob von Weizsäcker, the MEP who first proposed the task force – suggest that one particular use case lawmakers are considering relates to digital identity for refugees.

The document reads:

"One specific use case that ought to be explored is the potential of [distributed ledger tech] based solutions for the management of the situation of refugees. Many refugees, and people in refugee-like situations, are unable to prove their identity or access essential services."

It noted that a lack of a formal ID leave refugees without the necessary documentation to open a bank account, or to access healthcare, schooling, or legal protection.

The news comes amid growing interest among institutions and governments about the potential for blockchain to solve issues that affect displaced peoples.

Earlier this year, CoinDesk reported that the United Nations is conducting a pilot in Jordan, using ethereum to distribute funds to those fleeing the Syrian war. More than 10,000 refugees were involved in that initiative.

Now, at least seven UN agencies are investigating blockchain applications that could help with international assistance, such as identity and micropayments.

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